Context: EMC's support of cluster storage for archiving and backup will legitimize the technology and bring instant attention to the market. Vendors with competitive products have a window of opportunity to position themselves as a superior alternative. However, make no mistake, EMC plans to own this space and will commit significant financial, R&D and marketing resources to the effort.
EMC's market entry will be hobbled by several problems that competitors can try to exploit.
- Immature software: limitations, bugs, and the evaluation cycle that implies
- Maintaining a bright line positioning between Hulk/Maui and Symms
- 60% gross margin requirement
EMC will be NDA'ing strategic customers starting in mid-January to build major sales to reference at announcement. Smart customers will be calling other vendors, including the smaller, innovative ones, for perspective. Luck favors the prepared and receiving customers after a trip to Hopkinton will be a tough act to follow, despite the cold New England weather.
Strategy: IBM, Hitachi, HP, NetApp IBM Global Services should be open to reselling/integrating suitable substitutes. There are efforts within IBM's storage group to create a scalable, commodity storage infrastructure, but the chasm between IBM's brilliant technologists and IBM marketing makes success problematic.
Hitachi does not seem to be doing anything in this area. It will be looking at an acquisition, and it will probably bide its time.
HP's Polyserve acquisition may convince the company that it has the cluster thing under control, but Polyserve is not competitive with EMC's initiative. HP has a deep well of technology expertise from the DEC cluster products. Expect a cluster acquisition in 2008.
NetApp is vulnerable. ONTAP GX has missed the cluster market, and NetApp's controller-based architecture has all the cost disadvantages of traditional arrays without the flexibility of clustering. Putting ONTAP 7G on commodity hardware bricks with software "mortar" - as Google does with GFS - would preserve its significant advantages with WAFL at a lower $/GB.
New competitors Now is the time to get serious about what your product really does and what its appeal is to customers. Focus is critical to building a defensible position that can be used to win F500 business in areas where EMC is less competitive. There is also an opportunity to shift the terms of the customer debate. This market is still fluid and customers don't have a clear mental map of the terrain. Smart, focused marketing can take advantage of that.
Action Item: Small/new vendors: if you want to be acquired, now is the time to be shopping yourself to the big guys. If you want to build a big business, get your marketing focused on verticals and business justification.
Big vendors: start shopping now. EMC wants your scalp, so you'll want to be well-armed.
'All: there is a lot more to know about Hulk/Maui. A focused competitive analysis effort will pay dividends.